Quebec separatists set for Canada election losses

Fri Apr 29, 2011 12:21pm EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's Bloc Quebecois, which seeks independence for the province of Quebec, looks set to perform badly in the May 2 general election, a development that should reassure investors and federal politicians.

Though the party fields candidates only in the largely French-speaking province, the Bloc usually wins enough seats in Parliament to make it an influential player on the federal scene and maintain the long-term threat of Canada's break-up.

Yet a poor Bloc campaign this time round and an unexpected surge for support for the left-leaning New Democrats in Quebec means the party looks to be in trouble.

"The Bloc Quebecois ... will be dramatically humbled in the next Parliament," the Ekos polling firm said Friday. The Bloc's sister party, the provincial Parti Quebecois, is currently in opposition in Quebec.

The prospect of Canada breaking up has been an ever-present political risk for decades and peaked in 1995, when a second Quebec referendum on separation only just failed.

Charles St-Arnaud of Nomura Securities International said financial markets might well welcome a weaker Bloc, since that would remove political uncertainty.

"It's always a bit of a focus, or a kind of an underlying uncertainty that they have, that if either the Bloc Quebecois or the Parti Quebecois have a strong showing in an election, it could suggest that we'll have a referendum soon," he said.

"There's always that underlying concern, that 'OK, when will the next referendum be?'" he told Reuters, saying a less impressive performance from the Bloc would "dramatically reduce" the possibility of a referendum in the eyes of markets.   Continued...

<p>Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe exits his bus for a press conference following a campaign stop in Montreal, April 26, 2011. Canadians will go to the polls in a federal election on May 2. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi</p>